Mitama Matsuri

The Lantern Festival in Yasukuni Shrine

Mitama Matsuri is a lantern festival held each year in Yasukuni Shrine, located in Chiyoda ward in the heart of Tokyo. This four-day long celebration starting on July 13, attracts about 300,000 visitors, especially in the evening, with the light-up of thousands of lanterns and traditional dance performances.

First organized in 1947, Mitama Matsuri festival is part of the Obon celebrations in Tokyo. Obon is a period to honor the souls of the deceased, and Yasukuni Shrine is dedicated to the commemorations of soldiers who died for Japan. Despite Yasukuni Shrine’s nationalistic fame, the festival itself does not include political aspects, and focuses on traditional customs, in a relaxed atmosphere.

Mitami Matsuri’s popularity has grown among Japanese and foreign visitors. The shrine’s wide paths become crowded at nightfall, and those who are not comfortable with mass gatherings will best enjoy the place in the daytime, especially in the morning.

However, culmination of the festival happens at night, under the light of 30,000 hanging lanterns along the shrine’s main path, with various rituals such as:

Festival-goers dressed in yukata stroll in the shrine’s grounds and even try to dance, encouraged by dance troops performing on stage. Since 2015, drink and food stalls have been drastically reduced and alcohol consumption is strictly monitored in order to avoid any trouble. It helps keeping a relaxed atmosphere, with a genuine enthusiasm and children’s participation.

Mitama Matsuri is also a colorful festival, hued in golden yellow by the lanterns, red and blue with the dancers’ outfits and huge multicolored decorations, and one of the most beautiful for photographs in summer in Tokyo.

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Mitama Matsuri photo gallery

  • Yasukuni Shrine, Mitama Matsuri festival
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Details of the lanterns at Mitama Matsuri festival
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Great torii gate
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Details of the lanterns at Mitama Matsuri festival 2
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Details of the lanterns at Mitama Matsuri festival 3
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Traditional dances at Mitama Matsuri festival
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Traditional dances at Mitama Matsuri festival 2
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Mitama Matsuri festival light-up
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Awa-odori dancers at Mitama Matsuri festival
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Awa-odori dancers at Mitama Matsuri festival 2
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Awa-odori dancers at Mitama Matsuri festival 3
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Awa-odori dancers at Mitama Matsuri festival 4
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Decorations at Mitama Matsuri festival
  • Yasukuni Shrine, Mitama Matsuri festival light-up 2

Information

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How to get to Mitama Matsuri

By train: JR Chuo / Sobu / Keihin-Tohoku Lines, Iidabashi Station, then 3 minutes' walk

By Tokyo Metro: Shinjuku, Tozai or Hanzomon Lines, Kudanshita Station (S05, T07 ou Z06), then 2 minutes' walk

Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 281)

Admission

Free

Lanterns are available for purchase to participate in the festival:

  • Small lantern: ¥3,000 (~US$ 28.40)
  • Big lantern: ¥12,000 (~US$ 113.60)

Get your Japanese Yens free of charge

Opening hours

During the festival:

  • Shrine's grounds open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Main hall open from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Lanterns light-up from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

How long / when to visit

From July 13 to 16, allow two to three hours

In Japanese

みたままつり

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Resources

Mitama Matsuri Official Page on Yasukuni Shrine Website (in English)

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